Reaching Out to Nigeria’s Most Needy

In May, I traveled to northeastern Nigeria with ChildVoice Board Member Mark Hoffschneider on an exploratory and fact-finding mission. Our goal was to determine the feasibility of expanding the ChildVoice model into areas of northern Nigeria in the hope of helping victims of the insurgency of the Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group operating in the region.

It was hot — 106 degrees!! — when we arrived in the city of Maiduguri in the far northeastern part of the country. Because of the ongoing presence of the Boko Haram, this area is highly militarized and difficult to get into. As recently as mid-July, suicide bombers killed 17 people here.

When we finally reached our hotel, we were welcomed by a delegation of women leaders from Maiduguri who represent thousands of trauma survivors perpetrated by the eight-year Boko Haram insurgency.

Early on, we visited Shuwari IDP (internally displaced persons) Camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri. Here we met Agnes Bashir, an amazing woman who runs a community-based outreach for traumatized women and children, and she agreed to take us to meet some former abductees of the Boko Haram in this camp.

Refugees are divided by religion into the various camps — this camp is for Christians. The number of refugees continues to grow. Shuwari Camp is now at more than 2,000 refugees, 75% women and children, with only one borehole (well) for the entire camp.

Although these refugees are all registered, they receive little help from the relief organizations because the organizations are overwhelmed by the need. According to UNOCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), only one-third of those targeted for aid have been reached.

Beneath the horrific exterior of their current existence, many women and girls carry an even deeper, often paralyzing pain and grief caused by the trauma and loss they experienced as witnesses to violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. This issue will not be solved by basic relief, but requires a much more extensive intervention. This is what ChildVoice does, and it is what we are being asked to do here.

I know for many of you, your hearts have been broken by what I have shared of my experiences on this trip. While there are many NGOs and organizations working here, none of them are working with the undocumented refugees we met. Because of that, ChildVoice is taking the next steps toward working in Nigeria and caring for this underserved population. If you are interested in coming alongside us, you can click here to donate.